Here’s an easy-to-understand way of grasping how the body can function when we undergo a painful event and how yoga can help us to heal.
I went to the dentist last week. I had a cavity and needed freezing so they could go in there and scoop it out. The dentist told me she literally scoops out the build up of gunk that is a cavity. So… have a painful cavity = needs numbing to undergo painful procedure to get it out. The numbing agent is really powerful. It worked like a charm. I could undergo that procedure without problem, even if I still felt a little scared, at least it didn’t physically hurt. God bless modern medicine.
But here’s the thing: the numbing lasted way beyond the span of time it took for the dentist to take out the cavity and fill it with a new toothy substance. As a result I couldn’t do so many other things because the numbing agent lasted so long. My speech was all funny, drinking and eating was difficult, I even bit my own lip accidentally. I couldn’t feel my wife’s kisses. So I couldn’t feel was was painful — the small cavity removal procedure — but I also couldn’t feel the good stuff: kisses, touch, taste, etc.
When we go through a hard time, our nervous system can try to protect itself through shutting down or numbing out (only one of a few responses) so that we can make it through a tough time in our lives. That’s helpful because it makes the hard stuff less hard. But the challenge with that is that we also don’t get to experience the sweetness, and the other joyful aspects of life. So when we numb, we don’t just numb to pain, we numb to all the joy and wonderful experiences in life as well.
You know what helped me to regain feeling faster so that I could get back to feeling the juicy experience of life again? Movement! I stretched my mouth, talked with Christa even though it was awkward — I just kept things moving around the mouth to stimulate blood flow which nourished the nerves who were frozen. It helped, I think. Sooner than you know it, I was back to enjoying taste, touch and kisses again!
One might say that this is how yoga practice begins at a very fundamental level. The practices of Yoga bring awareness back to our bodies, to the sensations that live inside us at all times, that sometimes we’ve lost touch with. This is a practice of unveiling, recovering, and touching upon our physical body in safe, non-judgemental and relaxed way so that we can experience other moments of life, in their full vibrancy again. So ultimately, it’s not a question of perfecting extraordinary techniques, it’s more about coming back into relationship with the life that is living inside of us and around us.